‘Higher civil service pay may be needed to fill vacancies’

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HIGHER civil service salaries may need to be offered to fill the estimated 100 vacancies in one government department, a minister has said.

Speaking at a Scrutiny panel hearing yesterday, Environment Minister John Young suggested that without upping the salaries on offer his department might be left unable to ‘provide the high-quality environment or planning services we want’ due to difficulties in finding staff.

And Andy Scate, director general of the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department, said that some would-be recruits were put off coming to Jersey because of the ‘harsh realities about the cost of living’.

At the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Scrutiny Panel hearing, Mr Scate said the department should have between 600 to 650 staff – but around 16% of the jobs were unfilled. He added that some teams were ‘rather frayed around the edges’ because of the pressures the shortfall was creating.

‘We’ve got about 100 vacancies. We have always got engineering jobs available, property jobs available, regulation jobs available,’ he said.

And Deputy Young admitted: ‘We may have to pay people better, and up our offer to them.

‘We can’t provide the high-quality environment or planning services we want if we don’t have staff with a high degree of professional training, skills and experience.

‘We will have to start looking at whether we have the right policies and remuneration in place.’

Mr Scate added that new ways of advertising job opportunities needed to be considered.

‘We are acutely aware of our responsibility to keep the Island running.

‘We do have some recruitment successes with inquiries, but then some of the harsh realities about the cost of living kick in.

‘We need to sell ourselves better.

‘The traditional job advert appearing for two weeks hasn’t been working for us,’ he said.

The panel also heard that there was unlikely to be any housing specifically for ‘key workers’ that could be offered to new recruits to the department.

Mr Scate said: ‘It is taken up by the health and education sectors, and we have a bit for our “blue light” services.’

Also during the meeting, Deputy Young, speaking about last year’s fishing row, which peaked when dozens of French vessels staged a blockade at St Helier Harbour in protest over the number of licences they had been issued, said that ‘peace had broken out in this area’.

Panel member Deputy Inna Gardiner asked about the need for improved communication between the departments regarding the fishing industry as it related to environmental, external and economic matters.

The minister responded: ‘We have seen a highly charged international dispute, but I think we are through that – peace has broken out, in this area at least – and there is a need for greater co-ordination.’

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